Scion’s School is soldiering on! Last week we talked about the basics of conquering the first versus AI mode in Eternal, the Gauntlet. Like Ranked, Gauntlet is a free mode that allows you to stockpile gold for other things – specifically, the limited formats of Eternal, Forge and Draft.
Limited formats are a rarer treat that place significant value on all of the different skillsets of Eternal – both your ability to play decks, and your ability to build them from a limited pool of cards. The better you are able to identify and evaluate cards and fit them together into a coherent deck – and the better you can play that deck against your opponent – the better off you are! These modes cost free to play currency, but are better to invest in than packs due to some unique benefits.
In the Forge mode, you will build a deck by choosing from sets of three different cards. You get to keep all the cards you choose, which alone is pretty worse the cost of admission! 2500 for a Forge buys you 25 cards, which is about two packs worth plus one extra. It’s possible to get as many as four rares or legendaries in this pile, but the rarity of the cards varies. Combined with the base reward of one silver chest, this will typically cover your cost of entry fairly well, although you’ll want to win a game or two to make sure you get your moneys worth.
After you have completed your decks, the game will autoconstruct a power base for you and you will face down AI decks Gauntlet style. Unlike the Gauntlet, you can lose one game here – lose two, and you’re out. Because of the random nature of your deck the chaotic final showdown rules won’t take place, but the decks you’re facing will get tougher and tougher. Win all 7 games in the Forge, and you will get two gold chests plus a special rank-up chest with two packs inside – more than double the value of the gold you put into it.
Forge is probably the single fastest way for a new player to build their collection, so I heartily recommend you try it out. You already have an idea of how to fight the computer – so today, we’re here to talk through how to select the appropriate cards for a Forge and get an edge on the AI opponent.
I. Picking a Plan
The first card that you pick in Forge also determines your first faction – after you pick your second faction, that pairing becomes locked in. It’s OK to pick color pairings you’re comfortable with – especially if you’re building a deck in those colors for Gauntlet or Ranked. One of the key advantages to Forge as opposed to buying packs is the ability to pick your colors and focus down on a particular pairing.
You don’t need to rush both colors in the first two or three picks, but if you continue to pick just one, the Forge will force you to choose a second color at pick 5 by offering you three cards of colors you haven’t chosen. At the moment, it’s usually best to pick allied color pairings – the pairings that will allow access to hybrid cards. Rakano (Fire-Justice), Stonescar (Fire-Shadow), Feln (Shadow-Primal), Combrei (Time-Justice) and Elysian (Primal-Time) are all great choices, although if a good card leads you down a different path, that can be fine too!
Once you have a pairing, think about what kind of strategy you’re going for. Are you going to play aggressively and kill the opponent fast? Fill the board with big units and tax your opponents resources? Lock down their stuff and peck at their health with flyers? Take a breath after every 6 or 7 cards and think about where the deck is going and what kind of overall strategy you’re taking.
II. Picking for Advantage
Your plan may have to be fluid, because most of your picks will be heavily influenced by the value of the cards you are offered. This is one of the most important aspects of your picks – how much can a card actually do when it is played? Typically, you’re looking for a number of things:
First, card advantage. This is any card that in some way effectively increases the amount of cards you’ll play in comparison to your opponents. Cards like Wisdom of the Elders are obvious choices as they present two cards for the price of one, but remember that exchanges are often the most common way to wreak advantage. For example: Subvert is identical card advantage – you play a card, you draw a card, and your opponent loses a card. More often than not these advantages only come if certain requirements are fulfilled: for example Stonescar Magus can be played out, exchange with one of your opponents smaller units, and kill or disable another for a two-for-one. Be on the lookout for these kinds of exchanges and try to guess how frequently they’ll occur.
You can also measure card advantage in halves or thirds, where you sharply limit the usefulness of a card but don’t use it. Echo cards typically provide you with good half-card exchanges, and Silence effects like Dispel can mostly deal with an opponents card while drawing you a new one.
If you consider your hand as one resource, your board and your health are the other two to keep an eye on. Health-wise, you should focus primarily on offense but keep in mind that your opponent will too. You need to do enough damage to kill the opponent, but you only need to prevent enough damage to stay above 0 (There’s a simple adage here – the only point of health that matters is the last one). Evasive cards (flyers, unblockable units, or even cards that are not profitable to block like Quickdraw units) that deal damage quickly are very strong for this reason because they tend to end a game before card advantage matters.
Board-wise, you should generally be filling the board with as many dangerous threats as possible. This means that you want to pick things that have size advantage – efficient cards for their cost that weigh out highly on vanilla tests. If a card can trade evenly with the average card at one power above its cost, it might be a winner. Remember that board advantage is a requirement for most decks. You don’t want to overstack on cards that generate no board presence at all – cards like Black Iron Manacles or Stronghold Visage are appealing one-ofs but if you spend too many turns developing these cards you can lose control of the board completely.
III. Picking A Balance
Typically in Forge you want a deck that can do a particular thing well – aggro, control, midrange – but with enough cards in the early and late game to prevent the computer from gaining too much advantage. In other words, the better your power curve, the better your deck. In overall distribution, your deck should consist of at least 15 units, and have good combat tricks and removal (the AI’s bane). As smaller includes, you’ll usually need a little card draw, plus a way to end the game as it runs late (your “bomb” cards, giant evasive units or stallbreakers like Crystallize). Finally, it helps to have one or two “fixers” for your color – cards like Feln Stranger that reduce the chance you’ll ever draw a hand without the relevant influence.
The unit count is primarily important because units advance your board state permanently. Removal cards will often deal with threats efficiently, but once they’re used, they’re done. If a unit is not dealt with, it continues to press damage and create repeatable value for you. A 3 damage spell may be flexible and efficient, but it can only do three damage. A 3 damage unit can take 25 health to 0 if not answered properly. If you can reliably play units on curve and then support them with your awesome spells, you have a reliable path to victory. In particular, prioritize getting at least 5 one-to-two cost units, as playing these early helps you establish a position from which the rest of your advantage cards can be played.
We’ve talked before about the effect of tricks on the AI. In limited, you should especially prioritize removal spells, as they can drastically change the tide of a game for you. Cards that kill units or lethally damage them, silence effects that are tacked on to units, anything that can directly remove threats from your opponents board will clear the way for your units and allow you to get the repeated advantage you need. These are the most important cards to have at least some of, and should be prioritized even over units until you have enough. If you can deal with the few substantive threats that the AI puts down, it becomes exceptionally easy to play around the chaff that often fills their decks in the early stages.
Finishers can come in all shapes, but are usually large in size. A card like Cloud of Ash or Crystallize can do it if you have a commanding board position, but most finishers are your “bomb” units, cards like Ashara the Deadshot, Sapphire Dragon, Copper Conduit that have the ability to press damage without trading in most situations. You only need two or three of these in most decks, as they’re there for when both players have exhausted their resources and have a limited pool of options to deal with them.
Develop a level eye for cards and learn what works and doesn’t work for you. These skills are the basic elements you’ll also end up taking with you into Draft, Eternals most lucrative and high-stakes mode. Forge also a great way to play around with cards you wouldn’t otherwise have touched, which can really help you identify cool archetypes and interesting decks you want to build. Get creative with it! Explore synergies! Have a blast! We’ll see you in a week or two for our first dip into Ranked play.